Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11 + 10

TigerBlog walked down to the end of the driveway. It had just turned to darkness, and it was completely still, completely quiet. Eerily so.

TigerBlog had an uneasy feeling. He was scared.

It was the night of Sept. 11, 2001.

TB's memories of earlier that day are equally as etched in cement in his mind, to stay there for the rest of his life.

He dropped off TigerBlog Jr. at pre-school and heard a woman who worked there mention that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. How could that be, he wondered, on such a brilliantly perfect sunny day?

He spent the day at work, helping on the football game program for a game that would never be played, hovering around a television in the training room in Caldwell Field House, checking in with people who might have been in the city, eventually going back to get TBJ at the pre-school, where he was on a swings with a bunch of other oblivious little kids.

And then there was that night. Standing alone, on the edge of the driveway, thinking to himself about what had gone on that day, and certain beyond any doubt that two things were true:

1) the world had changed completely in one day and there was no going back, and
2) there were going to be more attacks on this country, probably in the next few days and then endlessly after that

Now, as the country remembers that horrific day on its 10th anniversary, it turns out TigerBlog was half right.

The world did change forever that day, and it will never again be like it was 10 years ago today or 10 years ago tomorrow.

On the other hand, there has not been another massive terrorist attack in this country. There have been incidents since, of course, but nothing nearly like what happened on 9/11.

In fact, there were probably dozens of missions planned on that scale, but the U.S. military and U.S. law enforcement have done an amazing job.

Al Qaeda is disintegrating, though numerous smaller groups - and individuals - are everywhere out there. Osama bin-Laden is dead, killed by Navy SEALS.

Credit for keeping this country as safe as its been these last 10 years goes to all of the people who have fought the War on Terror and the two Commanders-In-Chief who have overseen the effort - Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

TB wondered that night on the driveway whether or not the United States would be able to survive such a shadowy enemy, wondered what a post 9/11 world would look like, whether or not he could take for granted that Princeton University would still field athletic teams.

And then an amazing thing happened. The sun came up the next day, and the resilience of New Yorkers - especially then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani - began to inspire the entire country.

TB remembers one quote from Giuliani more than any other: "We will honor those who died by living our lives."

And that's what's happened.

If you asked TB to write down the best moments of his life, many of them have happened in the last 10 years.

As for Princeton, some of the greatest moments in Princeton athletic history have happened in the last 10 years. Today, Princeton is heading off into a new athletic year with athletes who were, what, in elementary school on 9/11?

One thing that TB has struggled with in these last 10 years is watching the events again on TV. In a world where it's so hard to separate reality and fantasy, TB has always felt it's somewhat voyeuristic and disrespectful to watch the planes hit the tower again, watch the towers fall, see the people jump out the windows because it was a better option for them - almost like it was watching a war movie or some episode of a cop show.

But the last few days, when TB has seen those images, it's served as the best reminder of the biggest heroes of that day, equal to the ones on the flight that crashed outside of Pittsburgh when the passengers fought back - the New York City police and firefighters who ran INTO the buildings, helping evacuate them before they collapsed.

In the aftermath, there were all kinds of fundraising events, including a huge one at Madison Square Garden. TB remembers a New York City firefighter who was on the stage and said his name and address into the mic and dared Osama Bin Laden to have the guts to come to his house.

TB heard an interview yesterday on the radio with one of the firefighters, a man who was trapped for 13 hours before being rescued. He talked about people he worked with who died, talked about the horror of the day.

Then he talked about resilience, how New York City came back, how the people got up off the canvas and went about their business and how proud that makes him.

And he's right.

It's been 10 years since the worst day in American history, one that left TigerBlog and tens of millions of others afraid about what the future would look like.

Ten years later, the world has changed, but the American people haven't. They've lived their lives, as Giuliani said.

They've gone to work and gone on vacation and had children and sent them to college and gone to their weddings. They've played sports and watched sports and gone to the movies and gone to concerts. They've argued politics. They've cleaned out flooded basements and gotten sick and gotten better.

And every morning, they've gotten up.

It's 10 years later.

The terrorists won big on 9/11.

America has won big since.


LucyGoosey said...


Anonymous said...

I've read a lot of 9/11 retrospectives in the past 72 hours and this one struck a very accurate tone. It recounts the fear and the defiance in just the right mix.